Where Art, Writing and Inspiration Meet: Graphic Novelist Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A Visit by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

We had the pleasure of bringing graphic novelist Jarrett J. Krosoczka to our school yesterday. He gave presentations to four different grades about his work as a writer and artist, and shared his writing process and passions for making books. Krosoczka is the creator of the very popular Lunch Lady series, and his recent book is Hey, Kiddo.

His origin story of the Lunch Lady series was interesting. He told of going back to his old elementary school as an adult, and spending time with a lunch lady who used to serve him lunch, only to realize that she had a whole life outside of the school building (shocker). He wanted to write a picture book about the cafeteria staff, only to realize that one small strand of that book — a lunch lady as an undercover agent, whose mission is to protect the school and students — should be its own book, and that the comic format of a graphic novel was the way to tell that story. It took eight years from that spark of an idea to publication of the first book, he told the students.

Meanwhile, in preparation for his visit, students across our school have been working on projects, including graphic novel stories, in art class to recognize and celebrate our own lunch staff and other support staff workers in the building. During one of the sessions with Krosoczka, the staff from the cafeteria was brought in, and celebrated, with students performing a rap and short opera they wrote for them as appreciation.

My sixth grade students met him at the end of the day, after a long morning of state math testing, so it was a nice counterpoint to that to hear Krosoczka describe how he came to love reading, and then making, comics, and how it was his passion for art and writing — and lots of persistence in the face of rejection, particularly for his first picture book — that got him to where he is today, as the writer/illustrator on dozens of books.

It’s one thing to teach students the art of writing; It’s another to hear a writer tell of their experiences. Krosoczka wove the two strands together, and hopefully inspired young writers to write (and draw).

Peace (on the page),
Kevin

Digging Ever Deeper Down into The Art of Is

Book nibblers

Terry has us tunneling into the book The Art of Is by Stephen Nachmanovitch, a book with the tantalizing subtitle of “Improvising As A Way of Life” that caught my attention. The introduction has my attention, for sure, as Nachmanovitch weaves in the concepts of improvisation to all sorts of ideas — music, art, text, collaborations, etc. I like the scope of it.

We’re inside NowComment as an annotation space (contact Terry if you want an invite), I am working to make art out of my reading experience. The comic above is a play on Terry’s invitation on Twitter and Mastodon, about “nibbling” at the edges of the work.

I then made this comic on my first reading start, trying to reframe the cover of the book as a piece of art and trying to explore the strange wording of the book’s title.

Comic reading

I’ve also been writing poetry — some of it found right inside the book —

found poem inside The Art of Is

Who knows where this improv will lead … following threads takes faith that the unraveling leads to understanding.

Peace (inside, outside, beyond),
Kevin

 

Classroom Comics and the Visiting Graphic Novelist

Scenes from Novels: In Comic Format

Thanks to funding support from our PTO, the school librarian, Pati M, and I (along with support by our art teacher, Leslie M) are bringing in the very talented Jarrett Krosoczka this coming Friday to share his work as a graphic novelist and maker of comics. Krosoczka’s most recent book — Hey, Kiddo! — is an amazing autobiographical examination of his childhood, with loss and love and art as the underpinning of his story.

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

I regularly use comics in my writing classroom (and did more when we had access to Bitstrips for webcomics but still use Make Beliefs Comix now and then) but I’ve been stepping it up a bit knowing that Krosoczka is coming to our school. And our art teacher has been focused on comics in art class, too, as our sixth graders work on graphic stories that are inspired by Krosoczka’s popular Lunch Lady series. Our students are celebrating non-teaching staff in our building by making them into superheroes, in comic format.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my sixth graders turning important scenes from the novels we are reading — Flush and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg — into comic strip format, and it has been wonderful to see the creativity flourish this way. We also did Onomatopoeia sound effect comics a few weeks back.

Comic Sound Collage

More about Krosoczka via his TED talks:

and

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Comics As MultiMedia Literacy Doorways

Thanks to my friend, Lauren Z., I took a dive into this piece by Gene Luen Yang (back when he was still in the high school classroom and not writing cool award-winning graphic novels and ambassador of young people’s fiction and all that) about the power of comics and graphic novels in the classroom.

Take a look at the piece in Language Arts journal from NCTE from back in 2008 (his points are still valid today)

Thanks, Laura!

And I saw this, too, as I started looking around Yang’s website. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a mere 15 minute drive from me, and they are going to be doing a Graphic Novel showcase in February, featuring Yang and others. I am so there!

And further rabbit-holing led me to this collection, which I just ordered through our library because the collection of stories about race and culture seems interesting. Yang is a contributor.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Comic Reflection: Some Final-ish Thoughts on E-Learning 3.0

This sort-of final reflection is for E-Learning 3.0 with Stephen Downes, and the musings of my experience — here in the form of a comic — is part of what may be a final project around “community.” I say “may” because a few of us are trying to discern a path forward with the open-ended element of Stephen’s call.

This thinking all relates to the possibility of how learning and teaching might unfold in the distributed web environment, where trust and a sense of belonging to something larger (even if you are removed from the center) is a key component to the way the future of learning, mostly online learning, might yet unfold. This is why we explored Block Chain, and elements of the Distributed Web, and Identity, as well as Credentials and Badging. Plus other topics I may have already forgotten.

One path towards Stephen’s assignment, suggested by Roland, is to create reflective posts together and those words, bound as they are by a shared purpose, create a sense of community formed around the EL30 experience. Another path, suggested by Laura, is to come to a collaborative consensus to define “community.” I’m happy to explore both ideas, as Jenny notes in her reflection, although I am not sure — as neither is Matthias, I think — either creates “community.”

Either would create connections.

Is that the same thing?

El30 Reflection Comic El30 Reflection Comic El30 Reflection Comic

Peace (in the panels),
Kevin

When You Give Yourself a Badge …

EL30 Badge site

This week’s task over at E-Learning 3.0 is to create and award a badge to yourself, and then reflect on the process. I am still very mixed on the use and effectiveness of digital badging.

I’ve had experiences in open learning spaces like CLMOOC and WriteOut (where we designed a Playlist format with badging as documentation). I still wonder about whether the intent behind badges (documenting learning) is in sync with reality (how are badges really used or they just forgotten afterwards?).

But I climbed aboard the EL30 badge bus and ventured back into Badge List, which is site we used for CLMOOC in the past. I created a new “group” for EL30 and then created a new badge for those who are making comics as critique or questioning or just sharing out learning.

EL30 badge

This is a Badge of One, I suspect, since I think I am the only person doing comics in the mix (see my collection over at Flickr). That’s OK. I am still enjoying it. I went through the process of creating the Comic Critic badge and the criteria, and set it all up. It only took a few minutes.

Then, I went through the process of uploading evidence (a comic) and submitting it for feedback and review.

EL30 Badge Comic

Then, I (as administrator) reviewed what I submitted (as participant), and awarded myself the badge. I was very generous with myself.

EL30 Badge Award

Now what? Well, I did move the new badge into my Badge Backpack. It’s another place I put things to remember, only to forget.

Open Badge Backpack

Peace (wear it proudly),
Kevin

 

 

Engaging From the Margins: A Fake News Studio Visit

Fake News studio visit

The folks at Equity Unbound explored the concept of Media Literacy and Fake News this week with a “studio visit” with two insightful participants — Mike Caulfield and Cheryl Brown. As it turns out, I am working with my sixth grade students this same week on this same topic of fake news and media literacy (through some cool symmetry of curriculum overlap), but I missed the hangout.

I popped the hangout into Vialogues (which allows for conversations about video), so I could engage with the discussion from the margins. You are invited, too.

Visit the Vialogues: Studio Visit on Fake News

And while thinking of Caulfield’s work around Digital Media Literacy, such as his Digital Polarization Project, I was pondering his conceptual framework of the Four Moves of determining the veracity of news, from his ebook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Somehow, in my brain, I had this idea of the Four Moves of fact-checking for students being re-conceived as Dance Moves. I know, it’s strange.

Thus, a comic:

Dancing about the Four Moves (of media literacies)

Peace (moving forward),
Kevin

 

 

 

On Beyond Like (The Place Where Conversations Happen)

On Beyond LikeI was sifting through a magazine article about the ways that social media make it easy to interact with text and how this has unfolded through sharing via the “like” and “plus one”  and “thumbs up” and “boost” buttons (and others with different monikers — choose your context). That got me thinking about how I, too, use those easy avenues for interaction, too, but also, it reminded me of the opposite — of how I often do try to add a comment, a question, spark a conversation.

Maybe I don’t do it enough but I try. If I read a blog post, for example, I try to leave some words for the writer, if only to plant a flag of “I was here with you.” Sometimes, I’ll grab a centering phrase. Or create a found poem. Or ‘take a line for a walk’ with reflection. If I see something interesting in a tweet, I’ll respond and wonder out loud. Many times, that’s where the conversation ends. Not always, but often.

Perhaps too often.

The above comic was an attempt to distill this idea of shifting away from the “read-and-run” mentality of online spaces, and maybe spend a little more time with a text or sharing. Engage the writer/creator in a conversation. Wonder out loud. Ask questions. Probe the topic.

Is there any doubt that the world would be a little better place if we took the time to talk, even in digital spaces, with each other? A “like” or a “plus one” or a “boost” or whatever is something, to be sure, but is it enough? Does it have depth? Nope. I can’t even remember what I liked yesterday and I bet you can’t either.

In Dr. Seuss’ not-well-known On Beyond Zebra, he imagines endless letters beyond our traditional English alphabet, spaces where creativity and imagination take hold, in Seuss-like ways, of course. The letters beyond Z were always there, we just never saw them.

Until we did.

This post is titled On Beyond Like because I am thinking that maybe, like the Seuss story, we have not yet gone beyond what the technology companies have designed for us. Remember: the likes and thumbs and all that are merely ways to gather data about what we like and don’t like, so they can push content and advertising our way. We are voluntary giving them tracking data on us. Imagine that.

This morning, I saw that Charlene had responded to my initial sharing of the comic. She asks a good question.

And I don’t know the answer. While my impulse is to say yes, do away with the buttons, the reality is that this would take away much of the way people show appreciation and interact. There needs to be some middle ground, perhaps, one that I don’t yet see.

Do you?

Peace (beyond like),
Kevin

 

 

 

A Comic Reaction to the Data Visualization

DS106 Non-Analysis Comic

Greg kindly shared out a data visualization of some #DS106 connections.

Although I didn’t quite know what it all meant — even though the focus of the E-Lit 3.0 course that I am watching from afar is all about data tools and data analysis, so much of it is beyond me right now — Greg’s visualization looked pretty cool.

After looking at it for some time, I thought, this is a game board. Then I thought, this needs to be a comic.

So I made a comic, for Greg. The game might yet come …

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

Comics … On Kids, Technology, Algorithms, and Openness

Kids today .. it’s all perspectiveI’ve continued to make comics as a sort of reflective response to some of the discussions going on in the Equity Unbound course, where I pop in an open participant from time to time, mostly via Twitter. The comic above was my attempt to think of the confidence that my students have with technology and then, how overwhelmed some of them become with the choices and the possibilities. Who’s in control of our tech use? For adults, it’s difficult. For kids, it’s even trickier.

Hiding Behind Words

This comic was from some frustration of the limitations of online endeavors — where sometimes we use big words as a way to grapple with difficult topics, and the words water down our actions. This is not pointed to anything in particular, just a critique of academic spaces (including my own).

Occupy the Algorithm

Someone in the #unboundeq hashtag used the phrase of “occupy the algorithm” and something about that resonated with me. It’s about taking ownership of your own experience, of knowing where your data is being used (or trying to grapple with it), of pushing back on the Googles, the Facebooks, the Twitters of the world. It’s not yet clear if that is a losing battle.

Where you at?This comic also stems from watching a discussion unfold, where the idea of “country of origin” seems to juxtaposition against the “place where we are.” I was also attuned to a reference to Facebook, asking the question of “country where you were born” and using that information to geo-locate you in the platform. I find this unsettling, for a lot of reasons (privacy, location data, advertising, etc.)

Knock knockFinally, for now anyway, I was paying attention to the tension that happens when any open networked project works to keep an open door but sometimes ends up closing the door. I think any of us who run open learning networks know the difficulty of this balancing act, of how to protect a space for conversation while also inviting more voices into the mix.

Peace (in the open),
Kevin